Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Notes from "Marketing Yourself" with OSU PRSSA

Last week I met with the OSU chapter of PRSSA for a discussion on how to market yourself. My colleague and good buddy, Becky Endicott joined me. These are a couple of the questions they asked.

How do you introduce yourself in networking and non-networking settings?
My answer, both sarcastic and serious, is I walk up, stick my hand out and say "Hi I'm Bonnie Ann Cain." What they were really getting at here, is how do you frame yourself. I think it's always best to frame yourself in a way that shows how you are similar to the person you are meeting. We like people who are like us, so try to find some common ground. Do you work in similar industries? Did you go to the same school? Are you members of the same organization?

How do you maintain relationships?
Social media really can make it easier to maintain relationships. The key is to use social media to actually make actual contacts, not just maintain a database of email addresses. There is a difference between friending someone and really using a network to interact with them.

What type of presence is best online? Strictly professional or personal and professional?
Unless you are willing to be completely and 100% diligent about not allowing any of your personal life online, there is no way to separate the two. There will always be a blend of the professional and the personal online persona. You just have to make sure both reflect well on you. Social media works best when you are a real person; it's OK (good, even) to be yourself. Just remember that anything you post online is posted in a public forum. You are not behind closed doors, whispering to your best friend. You are on stage with a megaphone.

Do you look at a job candidate's online presence?
Yes, I do. Not only do I look at candidates, I'll look up just about anyone I'll be interacting with. In our office, we regularly search new employees from other offices, reporters, editors, and people who comment about our organization in an open forum. And don't think just because your profiles are set to private that we can't get to stuff. Common friends are a great way to sneak looks at things someone didn't think strangers could see. I would advise everyone to do a thorough online search of themselves. You need to be aware of and actively manage your online reputation.

At the last minute Becky and I learned that our third panelist was out sick. So I tossed this out to Twitter: "We lost a panelist, so @ me your best self-marketing tip. Twitter just became our fill in panelist" Here's what Twitter had to say:

@ThirtySixthSpan: @BonnieAnn Passion is the most flexible of personal brands. No matter what you are doing, you can always draw from it.
@lisafrein: @BonnieAnn be genuine and know what you bring to the table that no one else can.
@vtrammell: @bonnieann we should have tape recorded my answers and i could have filled in!

Friday, January 23, 2009

6 Provisions of the PR Code of Ethics

A mathematician, an accountant & a PR officer applied for the same job. The interviewer called in the mathematician & asked, “What does two plus two equal?” The mathematician replied, “Four.” The interviewer asked, “Four, exactly?” The mathematician looked at the interviewer incredulously & said, “Yes, of course: four, exactly.” Then the interviewer called in the accountant & asked the same question. The accountant said, "On average, four - give or take 10%; but on average, four." Then the interviewer called in the PR officer & again posed the same question. The PR officer got up, locked the door, closed the shade, sat down next to the interviewer & whispered, "Well, what do you want it to equal?"

Ok, if this is still your idea of PR, shame on you, scroll down and read my intro to the PR Code of Ethics. The second half of the code is made up of 6 provisions. Here's the official version and the Bonnie translation.

Provision 1: Competition
PRSA says: Healthy & fair competition among professionals preserves an ethical climate while fostering a robust business environment.
Bonnie says: Play nicely with others.

Provision 2: Conflict of Interest
PRSA says: Avoiding real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest builds the trust of clients, employers & the publics.
Bonnie says: If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck...

Provision 3: Disclosure of Information
PRSA says: Open communication fosters informed decision making in a democratic society.
Bonnie says: No lying by omission.

Provision 4: Enhancing the Profession
PRSA says: PR professionals work constantly to strengthen the public's trust in the profession.
Bonnie says: If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.

Provision 5: Free Flow of Information
PRSA says: Protecting & advancing the free flow of accurate & truthful information is essential to serving the public interest & contributing to informed decision making in a democratic society.
Bonnie says: Your actions should do nothing to bias or alter the flow of open communications.

Provision 6: Safe Guarding Confidences
PRSA says: Client trust requires appropriate protection of confidential & private information.
Bonnie says: Know how and when to keep a secret

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

6 Core Values of PR

September may be PR Ethics month, but it's really too important of a topic to save discussion to one month a year. As an accredited public relations professional, I feel obligated to not only help my fellow PR practitioners embrace the PRSA Code of Ethics, but also to talk to people outside the practice about our code and what it means.

First off, yes we have a code of ethics! If you are working in PR and don't realize this key fact then get yourself to a PRSA meeting now. If you're not in PR and think we are all a bunch of hack Karl Rove wannabes, stop buying into the stereotype. It's not true. Like any profession (lawyers, mechanics, politicians, etc.) most of us work hard to do the right things. It just a few high-profile jerks who make us all look bad (which in itself is a violation of the code).

So here's a quick run down of the first half of the PRSA code of ethics, and the lay-person translation I created to help me keep it all straight.

Value 1: Honesty
PRSA says: We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy & truth in advancing the interests of those we represent & in communicating with the public.
Bonnie says: Don’t lie. Don’t lie to your client, don’t lie to your colleagues, don’t lie to the media. Just don’t, ever. Period.

Value 2: Independence
PRSA says: We provide objective counsel to those we represent. We are accountable for our actions.
Bonnie says: Don’t be a lapdog. You are hired to be a counselor, an adviser. You are not hired to blindly go along with what your client wants you to do.

Value 3: Loyalty
PRSA says: We are faithful to those we represent, while honoring our obligation to serve the public interest.
Bonnie says: Don't screw over your client. The best interests of your client are always a top priority. They are putting a lot of trust in you, and your commitment (of lack of) to them can have huge impacts.

Value 4: Expertise
PRSA says: We acquire & responsibly use specialized knowledge & experience. We advance the profession through continued professional development, research & education. We build mutual understanding, credibility & relationships among a wide array of institutions and audiences.
Bonnie says: Remain credible. You do this by applying the things you’ve learn, like the four-step process, by being able to articulate why we do research and evaluation, by continuing your professional development and by maintaining good relationships.

Value 5: Advocacy
PRSA says: We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts & viewpoints to aid informed public debate.
Bonnie says: The public is always your client. My favorite definition of public relations is “building mutual understanding between a client and their publics.” At its core PR is a public service.

Value 6: Fairness
PRSA says: We deal fairly with clients, employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media & the general public. We respect all opinions & support the right of free expression.
Bonnie says: Don’t be an asshole.

Next time, I'll look at the second half of the code: the 6 provisions.